Whippet Wisdom: Group Workout Dynamics

At last night’s Central Park group workout, we saw some patterns that should be a concern to all dedicated runners as they train.  My group happened to start last, but as we caught up to slower pace groups, I noticed that several runners had been dropped by their group less than two miles into a seven-mile run.  Their Garmin showed that their pace group started out much faster than projected, so they wisely backed off.  How does a group get broken up that early into a workout?  That shouldn’t happen.

A couple months ago, we posted a piece regarding workout routine and group running dynamics. As the calendar switches to September, those focusing on longer distance races – Bronx, Staten Island and/ or NYC Marathon – will see both their workout mileage and total weekly mileage increase. As this happens, it becomes even more paramount that workout paces are adhered. If you are making a commitment to attending the workout, may as well work together to make the workout as painless as possible. As a reminder, here are some tips to employ during these long marathon-paced or half-marathon-paced runs:

  • First and foremost, when selecting a pace group, be sure to stay within the range selected at the beginning of the workout. On Tuesdays, I’m starting to see groups break up within the first 1-1.5 miles even though everyone agreed to run a certain pace.  With the pace leaders creating groups with a 15-second pace-per-mile range, groups should not be breaking up within the first mile of the tempo run. Stick to the pace selected at the meetup spot.
  • Before the workout starts, count the number of people in the group so everyone knows how many people they are running with. During tempo workouts, survey the group every mile or so to ensure that everyone is still together.  If someone starts to fall off, encourage them to hang on and help them finish. When on the track, ensure the people you started with are within sight. If you’re at the front, waiting an extra 5-10 seconds before starting the next interval won’t ruin your workout. If you’re at the back, make a decision to either hang on or tell the group to go without you.
  • Remember, the goal of the workout is to build a tolerance to the projected pace; increasing the pace does not serve that purpose. This will be especially true when the marathon workouts increase in time/ distance. If you are having a good day, do not increase the pace faster than the agreed-upon pace. If you are feeling good, add on additional time/distance or another repeat at the end.  Someone may not be having a good day and increasing the pace may drop them. Also, that ‘someone’ could be you in a future workout. No one wants that karma.

Reassess how you felt after the workout was over. Was the pace group you choose too easy to maintain? If so, consider moving up a pace group the following week but, as mentioned above, do not increase the pace in the middle of the current workout. Was the pace too hard to maintain or did you feel completely spent after the workout? If that’s the case, consider moving back a pace group in the next workout.

When it comes to the workouts and training plans, there’s a ‘method to the madness.’ For those of waist-deep in a training plan, none of these workouts are difficult when placed in a vacuum. Seven miles at marathon pace? No problem! 10-14 Canova Ks on Thursday? You got this! But over the course of a long training cycle, these workouts build strength in a cumulative way so “racing” the workouts can lead to fatigue or, worse, injury. On a similar note, many people have said to me their long runs have been struggle and I agree the summer heat has been unkind. Maybe another reason is because you’re racing the workouts during the week?

As always, we’re here to help so feel free to chat with any of the coaches.
Chris 40

More about Chris Forti

Chris grew up just outside of Boston where he competed at the high school and collegiate level. In Boston, he coached athletes with varying objectives - from youth to high school to adults - and went so far as to marry his favorite athlete. He joined the Whippets in 2013 and is excited to be coaching for this highly motivated group. He works at siggi's yogurt in New York City as a demand planner and can be found playing "catch the red laser dot" with his favorite kitty, post-run. He calls himself "40" because "Forti" is evidently too many typeface characters to handle and can be found on Facebook, Twitter (@chris40runs), and Instagram (@chris40runs)

One thought on “Whippet Wisdom: Group Workout Dynamics

  1. Jonathan Kline

    Great stuff coach ; thanks for posting!


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